Luke Skywalker is the epitome of an epic hero: brave, reckless, a bit naive, and not half-bad with a lightsaber as he evades Stormtroopers and fights to take down the Empire. But could it be that he almost became a Stormtrooper, himself?
There’s a moment in” Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” — first pointed out by Reddit user Giant70751 — that hints to how things could have gone very differently for the young moisture farmer.
In the scene around the Lars’ dinner table (right before the iconic binary sunset), Luke broaches the subject of leaving Tatooine with his aunt and uncle.
“If these new droids do work out, I want to transfer my application to the Academy this year,” he says.
What “Academy” is he referring to? The Jedi Academy didn’t yet exist at this — Luke goes on to found it on Yavin 4 ten years after the Battle of Endor. There’s no Rebel Alliance academy of any sort on the books, either.
He must have been talking about the Imperial Academy, the Empire’s military training program.
Luke isn’t necessarily a big fan of the Empire, but he doesn’t think his feelings about such a powerful force in the galaxy matter all that much. Not to mention that admittance to the Academy means escaping his dull desert life.
As he tells Ben Kenobi, “It’s not that I like the Empire; I hate it, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now.”
One could argue that even if Luke had joined the Imperial Academy, he would have defected to join the Rebel Alliance as his friend Biggs Darklighter did. (The scene where Luke and Biggs discuss this didn’t make the final cut of the film, but is available as bonus feature in some releases.)
Either way, the choice that determines Luke’s fate has nothing to with the Force and everything to do with buying R2-D2.
Luke and Owen were going to leave R2-D2 behind until the red R5-D4 droid’s motivator went up in smoke, leaving R2 as the only other option.
“I’m quite sure you’ll be very pleased with that one, sir,” C-3PO tells Luke in an effort to convince them to make the purchase.
Indeed. It’s while cleaning R2-D2 that Luke discovers Princess Leia’s message, which sets the plot in motion, dropping any plans to attend the Imperial Academy and likely be drafted into the Empire’s army in favour of joining the Rebel Alliance and beginning his Jedi training.
Whether Luke knew it or not, those were the droids he was looking for.
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